During the rocky transition to the 3-4 scheme last year and while familiarizing several new faces this year, one constant for the Redskins defense has been third down effectiveness.
They ranked seventh last year and entered last weeks Miami game fifth in the NFL (29.8 percent).
But like a lot of things during the Redskins current five-game losing streak, one area broke down and this time it was third down defense. The Dolphins converted eight of their 14 chances (57.1 percent).
Weve been good on third down for two years and thats probably the worst game weve had, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Thursday at Redskin Park.
Haslett is close to being right. Only last years second Philadelphia game (8-of-13, 61.5 percent) was worse.
Its extremely frustrating, safety Reed Doughty said immediately after the game. I cant even tell you really what it was. It was a little thing here, a little thing there. I think were better on third-and-shot and thats just not us.
Six times in the first eight games, the Redskins held opponents under a 35-percent conversion rate, including the Giants (1-of-10), Dallas (3-of-13) and San Francisco (3-of-12).
There were a couple things, Haslett said. One, they did a good job scheming us to be honest. We didnt do as good a job of getting to the quarterback and they worked us with some of the combination coverages we had and they got open.
They took advantage. We didnt play as well.
The Redskins know they have to get off the field against Dallas, whose offense is among the top 10 in scoring, time of possession and both rushing and passing yards.
A breakdown of the eight third-down conversions:
1. First quarter, third-and-8, Miami 43.
The Redskins rushed five, including a blitzing LaRon Landry from the blind side but he was picked up by running back Reggie Bush. Lined up at left slot against zone coverage, Brandon Marshall broke open with an inside cut when cornerback DeAngelo Hall turned his hips outside. Marshall had a 26-yard catch.
2. First quarter, third-and-1, Redskins 9.
On the Dolphins second third down of their initial drive, Bush lined up alongside Moore and appeared to be ready to pass protect linebacker Perry Riley, who didnt rush. Riley moved as if he thought Bush would run a route into the flat. Instead, Bush moved inside and caught a 4-yard pass from Moore. Bush scored a 1-yard touchdown three plays later.
3. First quarter, third-and-7, Miami 18.
The Redskins rushed four against a five-man protection and Moore created time by sliding left in the pocket. Working from the right wide spot, Bess worked inside against Hall and then put his foot in the ground to create an opening. After the catch, he gained an additional 12 yards for a 17-yard gain.
4. Second quarter, third-and-6, Redskins 43.
Marshall stationed himself on the inside of a three-receiver right side and with plenty of cushion in coverage because the Redskins were showing a pressure look. At the snap, Marshall floated out uncovered and Moore threw in .82 seconds. The play became a 15-yard gain when Kevin Barnes missed a tackle and Hall and safety LaRon Landry were blocked downfield.
5. Third quarter, third-and-10, Miami 31.
The Redskins trail only 10-9 early in the third quarter. A false start has made the play a third-and-long situation. The Redskins showed a different look linemen Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen fanned out over the tackles and linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo stood up across from the guards. Those four plus London Fletcher blitzed Moore. Bess gained the inside advantage over Barnes and then ran a crossing route. The play when for 23 yards.
6. Third quarter, third-and-4, Redskins 40.
In another wrinkle, Haslett sent Hall (assigned to Marshall) on a blitz and dropped Orakpo into coverage. With a free release, Marshall easily found an opening behind Orakpo and between deep safeties Landry and Doughty. The result was a 26-yard play.
7. Fourth quarter, third-and-8, Miami 33.
Another route run without resistance resulted in another first down. Anthony Fasano broke from his left tight end spot unaccounted for and he ran to the marker and turned around to catch Moores pass. Its just a guess but Fletcher appeared to be in coverage and the way he was running, might have thought Fasano was going to run a deeper route. The play gained 11 yards.
8. Fourth quarter, third-and-4, Miami 45.
During the Dolphins clock-draining drive to close out the game, the Dolphins used misdirection Moore faked to Daniel Thomas for a run up the middle and boot-legged left for a 9-yard gain. It was similar to the play Jake Delhomme made two years ago to clinch a Carolina win over the Redskins.
The Dolphins entered the game last in the NFL (26 percent) in third down conversions.
They did a good job, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. Going into the game, they werent that consistent so give them credit for doing a good job. We have to do better in that area.
Contact OHalloran at email@example.com